When Does Child Support End?

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19172871California Family Code Section 3901 tells us that under normal circumstances child support is payable until the child turns 18. There is an exception if the child is still in high school when he or she turns 18. If a child is a full-time high school student the obligation to pay child support can continue until the child turns 19 or graduates from high, whichever occurs first. The question that frequently follows is: what is a full-time high school student?  An unpublished opinion out of Los Angeles County (remember unpublished opinions cannot be cited as precedent, but can be read for educational purposes) tries to answer that question.

Paul and Alicja had four children. Paul and Alicja got divorced. Paul was ordered to pay child support to Alicja. While still a high school student, one of their children turned 18. Around the same time he moved from Los Angeles to Minnesota to play hockey. In Minnesota he attended high school about 20 hours per week. Letters from the two different schools that he attended explained he was a “part-time student.”

Whether a child is a full-time high school student within the meaning of section 3901 is a question of fact. Attending high school no more than 20 hours per week while spending the bulk of your time pursuing an eventual college or professional hockey career is not being a full-time high school student — especially when the school classifies the child is a part-time student. Paul’s obligation to pay child support for his hockey playing son ended when the boy turned 18.

Please click here to read the Herriott opinion.

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